Earlier this month I had the opportunity to have a very nice conversation with Jennifer Maher, the CEO and Executive Director of the TechForce Foundation. TechForce is a national organization that was created a few years ago because of a series of conversations between industry and education. Their mission is straightforward. It is to champion students to and through their education and into careers as professional technicians.
TechForce’s vision helps all of us see clearly how this work has to get done. Their stated vision says “we harness the collective resources of the transportation industry to develop tomorrow’s workforce of qualified technicians by:
- Increasing awareness and enthusiasm for the profession;
- Providing resources to help access quality education for those with financial need;
- Connecting future techs and industry through mentorship and career development opportunities.”
While we are not identical twins, the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence’s mission and work have some clear similarities with the TechForce Foundation. So, it makes sense that we would work together, communicate together, and leverage each other’s resources and connections to really make a difference for our students, educators, and the industry.
The TechForce Foundation’s website is filled with great resources and connections. Let’s take a look at the basics. The program that makes the most impact to me is the FutureTech Resource Hub. This is the one-stop-shop for almost everything and a great place to start exploring the website. It has everything to help you think about and get connected, from accredited programs to helping you explain to others the “why” we are doing this, to finding local events. The Road Map helps you learn how the pathway from middle school to technical college can be enhanced.
Making choices about your career in life is very stressful and challenging. TechForce Foundation has recognized this and has created a lot of resources that can be used locally. There are resources for parents, teens, and other influencers such as videos, career assessments, test driving a career, real life stories, and more. You really need to check out the cool part called “what every parent wants to know: facts about the career.” As a parent myself, I know what it is like to say that I want the best for my kids. But I also want them to grow and make their own choices and be happy because it was their choice. That’s where an informed parent comes in. Facts about our industry are one of the most important (and yet vastly underutilized) things that we can share with parents. Check into this area if you are connected to those in the outreach and youth programs.
Money. We wish we all had more or that it wasn’t a real world challenge. And for our current and future students, it’s the one thing that we can universally help them with. Tuition, payments, tools, books, supplies, rent, car repairs, family, life issues, and other things can all crash together. And in too many cases, our current and future students can have foggy days and cannot see through it. Scholarships are not about a handout. They are about people stepping up to just be great people. They are about demonstrating leadership, opening doors, and recognizing challenges that too many of our students have at that point in their life. I’ve been around the block for a while now and for many years I have heard people say that some scholarships don’t even get applications, even in our industry. Our best tools can only do so much or be useful. It is our job to tell students about scholarships, to encourage them to apply, and to actually sit down with them to get started on filling out applications.
For those of you reading this, I personally challenge you to go to the TechForce Foundation’s website and to help communicate the scholarships to a few perspective or current students. And, I challenge you to not just send them a link, but to meet with them one on one and talk to them about scholarships.
Making a difference, moving the dial, and moving forward are not easy things to do. It’s going to take all of us to actually do this. We cannot just rely on national organizations to act by themselves to get great things done. Us Minnesotan’s are needed to do this work as well and to carry it out locally. I encourage you to go to the TechForce Foundation’s website and explore.
I know there are many, but find at least one resource that you can use today. Be your own champion and join both us in our quest to create better opportunities for students and industry.